11 Frames of CMS 20 II Around Reno

My new favorite black and white film


sonny rosenberg

3/6/20232 min read

Not all that long ago shooting Film Washi S, high contrast cine sound recording film was a revelation for me. The film was so sharp and high contrast that combined with a wide angle lens, it brought a look to my shots that I hadn't imagined possible. To be sure, it was a look that not everyone loves, but for me it was an epiphany. The negatives absolutely sparkled. I'd never really seen anything quite like it. It was also very amenable to developing in the weird organic developers that I enjoy.

And then Washi S disapeared for a while, for a time I just couldn't find it anywhere. It did return and now I think it's sold exclusively by The Film Photography Project, but it's not the same. It's not drastically different, it's still high contrast film on a clear base, rated at ISO 50. But for me, it just acts differently. I may be totally off my rocker and these differences could be purely imagined though, so take all this with a few grains of salt. I really don't recall Washi S ever being this curly. Because I scan almost all my images, I've really developed a strong distaste for curly films. Not that I don't use them, I do, but I don't think a curly film could ever become a favorite for me. I do this for fun and fighting curly films just takes some of the joy out of it for me.

One thing that I used to really love about Washi S was the way it handled bright light. Even though the instructions warned against using it in high contrast situations, I found that this film really shone in bright sunlight (see what I did there?). These days it doesn't seem to have the exposure lattitude that it used to, it's still very good, I just don't relish using it the way I used to.

When Washi S started becoming scarce, I began looking at other films that might replace it. I did find some other films that were very high contrast, even another sound recording film that was nice and then I stumbled on microfilms, that is films made for recording printed text at highly reduced sizes. Notable for me was Adox CMS 20 II. CMS 20 is a bit particular in that it's part of a system by Adox and is meant to be developed in their on Adotech developer. I've heard that CMS is amenable to being developed in Caffenol so I'm guessing it could be developed in Artemisianol or Kompostinol, but I've only ever used Adotech, which works quite well.

CMS 20II is everyhting I was missing in a film. It's tack sharp. I think it may be the sharpest film? Depending on the speed shot at it, can go from super high to contrast to just high contrast with a broad tonal range. To get that broad tonal range, I've had to shoot it at ISO 12, which is pretty darn slow for anything other than the brightest sunlight days. I've heard that some people shoot it at ISO 6 and have great results. I do plan to try that one day. It does have a very nice exposure lattitude and is only the slightest bit curly, not a pain at all to scan. It's a pretty lovable film for me.

This roll was shot at ISO 25, which is the upper range of recommended speeds for CMS, as you might expect, these shots are on the contrastier side of things. These were taken in my between storms wandering around (mostly downtown) Reno and shot with my 24mm Chroma Double Glass lens on my Leica Ic. Development was in Adotech IV for 11 minutes at 79° F.